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ID-10028225The forthcoming tips come from a journal entry from last week. Its fun to flip through a soft leather pocket-sized volume,  reading bits in juicy blue fountain pen hand. I adore fountain pens, the quill gliding, feeling the shining liquid ink absorb into the paper. I relish writing in cursive, something Israelis find perplexing. Creating loop upon look feels a little like drawing, doesn’t it?  They don’t write that way here, the boxy Hebrew characters aren’t built for it. Though everyone is fluent in English, they cannot read our connective writing. Shame.

In any case, a few facts.

1) I’m writing this post on my kindle fire – a used new-to-me model given me by my mother incredibly thoughtful sister, which despite its first-generation-ness, has really improved the quality of my life. It’s a rudimentary tablet, and I have access to wifi like a smart phone,  something I don’t have as its very expensive here. Though clunky, its so nice to have a browser and books (of which I’ve read a few) and newspapers (I read the Herald Tribune daily) and apps, though usually its just a few card games I use to distract myself to blow off steam. There is no camera and no mic so Skype and photos aren’t relevant. However I just downloaded this mobile wordpress app, seems easy to use, and here I am, writing! Brilliant. Thank you Ashley!

2) The following are guidelines I created for myself, very straightforward, things I know will vastly improve my daily existence. The moment by moment breathing in and out getting out of bed and being functional and happy kind of existence. The physical that should improve the metaphysical.  Underneath the funky bookishness, I’m just an ordinary schmo. I’m very messy and unraveled at the edges. These are my goals. Maybe you guys would find some benefit too from reading this. Or at least you can check up on me. Or ask me out. Or publish my novel. Or do my dishes. Whatever floats your boat.

  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night, preferably turning in before midnight.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water per day. 
  • Create a daily work checklist and stick to it.
  • Don’t dare to think about work after work, and really create a line, even if and when overtime is required.
  • Always be reading a book.
  • Read the newspaper every day. 
  • Attend or participate in (at least) one cultural activity per week, whether it be a night at the opera or digging out the colored pencils for a fun sketch fest at home.
  • See friends twice per week or more.
  • Write, blog, or otherwise work with words in some way every day.
  • Clean something every day and maintain a clean (ish) home – i.e. sweeping, dishes, cat box, laundry, gardening, general tidying.
  • Pay bills/rent/vaad bayit on time.
  • Cook and generally eat healthy meals (and eat with people preferably), not in front of the computer or TV.
  • Go to yoga once per week if not more.
  • Go on one date per week.

How hard is this?  Very hard!  Well, not really, but really.  It takes some self-conscious effort.  Nothing on the list is difficult.  Well, not too difficult – the cleaning is not easy for me.  But doing every single thing, or at least many of them — that is discipline.  I do some of these things, sometimes, and somehow I manage.  I imagine if I could accomplish these tasks, and maintained it, my life would be less stressed and far more fulfilling.  How often do I lose sleep over timing, running to keep up on deadlines, avoiding the disgusting kitchen sink, feeling guilty guilty guilty.  The stress is physically and mentally unhealthy.  So, while easier said than done, I must attempt this everyday Everest.

What do you think?  Do you have a regimen?  Any tips?

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Being a long-term expat gives a person a unique perspective, as you well may imagine – an outside eye with insider access – and in the case of these bloggers, the ability to be ambassadors to the world at large.  It’s been a while since I focused on food myself, and I want to highlight to whoever may be reading, a review of some incredible blogs – AND – their very special qualities.  I’ve chosen and linked some specific posts to shed a light on the diversity of boutique dairies and cheeses, markets, spices, comfort foods, and out-of-the-way corners/villages/eateries that guidebooks would never even know to mention.  Enjoy!

Milk, Dairies, and Cheese

Israelis love their cheeses, eaten (much to my chagrin, actually) very fresh.  For fresh cheeses, however, they’re extraordinary.  A huge variety of cow, goat, and sheep cheeses are produced by the largest and smallest boutique dairies all over the country.  Baroness Tapuzina told us about her visit to the Ein Kamonim goat far recently.  Sarah Melamed of Food Bridge posted about a comparison between camel, cow, goat, and buffalo milk, oh my!  To add my recommendations on Israeli cheese, I adore the Markovitch Dairy – run by a sweet couple, on their own, with their goats, near Petach Tikvah – they make a cheese very similar to Camembert, with a blue center – during events they cater, they stuff big majoul dates with a softer goat cheese – to die for.  A bigger better-known artisanal cheese-maker is the Jacobs Farm – they make a hard cheese with pimento and caraway seed that is so incredibly different – it took me a while to like it, but I adore it now.

Markets and Places

Pita with zatar

My friend Liz, of Cafe Liz fame, is truly a market connoisseur.  Actually, most of these bloggers probably are, but I as know Liz well and we hang out in Tel Aviv quite a bit – she has been my personal ambassador to some gems.  Here, she tells us about Ramle, an out-of-the-way melting pot of a little town near the airport with an incredible history.  Here, a foray into the Levinsky Street market, undoubtedly the best place to buy spices in Tel Aviv – a bizarre 2-3 blocks of storefront if you’ve ever seen one.  And in a post I highly recommend, Where to Buy Food in Tel AvivLiz compared the prices of several basic food items at the shuk (market), and several commercial and organic stores around town – with very interesting findings for the consumer.

Sarah has a whole page devoted to shuks (markets), that you should really check out.  She’s written about Nazareth on a couple of occasions, somewhere most of us urban-folk would never venture.  The food scene is incredible there, and the New York Times recently featured it in an article, “Nazareth as an Eating Destination.”  A great pictorial is Spice Up Your Life in Nazareth, and a more complete anecdote is Nazareth Shuk: A Kaleidoscope for the Senses.  Another great post is by Miriam Kresh, the veteran blogger of Israeli Kitchen, also littered with fabulous photographs.  Miriam’s knowledge of the natural foods around us and the making of such basic (yet to us, complex) processes such as wine-making, soap-making, lotion-making, olive-pickling, and much more is astounding.

Comfort Food Around Us

Stuffed peppers

The new Jerusalemite among us is Ariella, of Ari Cooks.  A trained pâtissière, I love reading through her recipes.  A recent post of hers focuses on soups, Soups for Thought, and it was so so so good. So apt for the winter, so cold this year, making up for last year’s heat wave.  She links to several other soup recipes, so it’s an excellent resource.  Miriam has a great post on pickling olives at home, a local staple, olives are.  Sarah is hands down the kubbeh expert among us, and if you don’t know what these lovely semolina dumplings stuffed with meat are, do click her link.  Here is also Sarah’s excellent, beautiful, and brief journey through Israeli foods, including the ubiquitous falafel, foreigners so know us by.

I have skipped so much and focused on too few blogs — the amount of recipes, the innovation of this cooking, this east-meets-west, foreign-domestic, old-new, always fresh outlook displayed by the food bloggers of Israel is inspiring.  If you live here, I hope you choose to eat well and eat interestingly.  If you don’t live here, when you visit, make food a priority.  It’s so special and vibrant and fresh here.

Have a great week, all!  Here’s to getting through the winter!

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My apartment is ready for its closeup

It’s been forever. I know.

Since I’ve written I have:

  • Created a wonderful wine tasting for a food bloggers’ dinner
  • Meditated until my butt and thighs and back no longer hurt from the experience
  • Discovered my sister’s grilled cheese sandwich press (sizzling behind me at the moment)
  • Returned to vegetarian tendencies given up ten years ago after being inspired by my Buddhist learning and reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Read it, please.
  • Worked worked worked worked for my various clients
  • Been on a few first dates, which says something
  • Witnessed a near suicide bus-bomb in central Tel Aviv
  • Developed a beautiful friendship
  • Been filmed for 4 days for an international television show called House Hunters International (I don’t believe I can speak more about it for contractual reasons – but believe me – it was an incredibly interesting and awesome experience – made even more so by the most chill fab camera/sound/directing crew that ever was)
  • Broken up with my therapist
  • Drunk some really incredible wine (I adore the winery I work for, I really truly do)
  • Watched the entirety of FlashForward in about 5 days and was horrified to learn it was canceled (what is it with crappy TV execs who can the most exciting, thought-provoking shows, e.g. Firefly)
  • Had my poor Fischer cat in the hospital for nearly a week with a blocked up bladder – had to have surgery which turned him into a her – and it cost me a bloody fortune.
  • AND – now I’m flying to the United States for 3+ weeks! AND if you can believe it, I bought the ticket 3 days ago.  One of the most last-minute crazy-ass trips I’ve ever, ever organized (or not organized, as so happens).  Even when I went to India, I got the ticket 2 weeks before I went.  Ah, life

So…getting back into blogging sucks.  When you finally get on a roll, you’re on a roll.  That’s what I’m attempting to do.  I’m going to post some pics, have some laughs, and send me some love in the form of comments, my dears.

My Pretty Apartment

Our Rooftop Garden

I discovered the panorama setting...

And the collage setting...

And the frame setting...of my camera phone...I see fun in my future

Sunset in Jaffa in the Adjami neighborhood

Fischer after the sex change operation

Tons of herbs my sister's friends brought from kibbutz. This is a fraction of what I froze.

Quick vegan attempt at a lasagna type thing - that's a whole "Mangol" Leaf on top (chard?)

Pretty salmon as a mezze at Manta Ray

Antique coffee cup at Basta near the shuk

Amazing Israeli group playing classical Indian music at the close of a 2-day meditation retreat

Very satisfying and affordable grilled cheese at Segafredo on Frishman - ask for tomatoes inside

Best cheeses in Tel Aviv - Hinawi Carlebach

Wearing his heart on his sleeve? Time running out?

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Really nice shoes. I did.

I haven’t been blogging for a while, and the longer I don’t, the harder it is to go back.  And I’ve had so many ideas, and such an interesting couple of weeks.  Seriously, it kills me, and I don’t know where to start writing.

But the situation itself (the not writing) is reflective of the current state of my life.  Not that I’ve not been busy (went to a tweet-up, went out on a date, and worked the incredible IsraWinExpo).  But the internal drive and state aren’t so healthy.  I’m feeling pretty apathetic, a bit behind on work, my laundry situation is dire, the dishes and leftover food situation were physically nauseating, and my linens were seriously, seriously needing a wash.

So, in short, last night I had an “insightful” evening — had a moment of clarity and took a honest look at my life. I’ll spare you the details for the moment. But this morning, this Saturday morning, I got out of bed, and I immediately put on trousers, a bra and shirt, and finally shoes.  Shoes.

Whether barefoot, in socks, in slippers, or even in Uggs, I find I’m not really awake and rearing to go in a serious, “I am going to work, make money, do my chores, call my friends, and generally be productive and feel good,” without shoes.  Fully dressed, yet still in slippers, I might as well have stayed in pajamas. Although it be possible to get work done in this condition, I do it as grudgingly, as a schlub.  Nobody likes to feel like a schlub.

Today, I did the dishes, all of the dishes.  Emptied and scrubbed the “kolboinik,” (it’s a sink-trash – no disposals in Israel), and bleached the hell out of the sink and surrounding areas.  It took more than 2 hours.  I planned on stopping.  I wanted to go to a favorite cafe and work and write and be  a Tel Aviv “participant.” But as soon as I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, I had the urge to scrub a bit more.

So, when in doubt, when feeling a bit of despair, hopelessness, or if you’ve hit an itching dry procrastinating spell – put on your shoes.  Some powerful shoes.

I’m in boots, thick high-heeled black leather boots.  Imagine standing in those for two hours in front of a nasty dripping sink.  Got through it though, didn’t I?

Here are some photos from the past weeks that I’d like to share.  I’ll get to describing some of the fantastic events I’ve been to shortly.  I promise.  Enjoy!

My Clean Dishes!

Ahmadinijad in drag - lovely figure don't you think?

Edible Elmo & Cookie Monster - cupcakes are chic in Tel Aviv

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I googled, “cheer me up.”  Here’s what I got:

ZYRA - Badum, dum...tsss

I am horrified by google, the internet, and humanity in general at the moment.  How can an internet search of the words “cheer me up” be such a dud?  Perhaps that’s the joke? The results are so ludicrous that they by default cheer up the searcher?

I digress.  I’m not having a great morning.  Lots of work things have left me in a foul, anxious, borderline sort of mood.  On a whim I googled “cheer me up”.  Let me share my results with you:

  1. The Official ZYRA Website – a truly bizarre low-tech compilation of lists, research, and encyclopedic factoids.  It looks like a fantasy site, something out of a messed-up comic book world.  Scary.
  2. The Official Jokes Thread…on a forum on East Asian Horror and Cult Cinema – the funniest thing about this site is that all the jokes are being told by someone sporting a profile pic of a Japanese schoolgirl in uniform.
  3. Yahoo! Answers – a depressed British schoolgirl weeps about her misery, and receives a slew of answers…
  4. Some Jewish Blog in Boulder, CO – and the telling of a stupid Barrack Obama joke.

It just occurred to me that I’m doing these websites a favor by actually linking back to their silly/stupid/boring content.  Enjoy the weirdness, if you dare…

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So far, I’ve really enjoyed having a completely open and public blog.  What I mean by that is that my name is right here for you to see.  Any friend, relative, future – present – and past employer, teacher, lover-long-gone or soon-to-be can know who I am and read what I write.

But it has its downsides. I had some really devastating moments this week professionally as well as some minor triumphs.  I read a great book.  Thought some interesting thoughts. And other things.  Things that affected me.  Things that were important to me.  And I didn’t write them down.  Not here.  Not anywhere.

When I wrote anonymously, it was something of a relief to shed the nastiness and sorrow and insecurity away into the void.  I know I could still do this to some extent.

But what of honesty? Why do we think (do we know?) that being honest about everything can hurt us.  Doesn’t the saying go that the truth will set you free? I suppose freedom can hurt and hurt bad.  As it also goes, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.  We may be free, but does that mean that we are alone in our wide open fields?

When will we learn, or accept, that we are all children?  Fun-loving, wild, and careless.  Insecure and fearful.  Looking for praise and approval.  Still trying to figure it all out.  Children.  We’re all just pretending now.  Only most of us have simply forgotten the pretense.

On the plus side – I made banana bread today – the organic veg people keep sending fruit that seems to be on the verge of rotting – or already there.  Maybe that’s just organic for you.  So, I decided to make lemonade of my lemons and made old fashioned banana bread.  De-lish.

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…everywhere but Israel, it seems.  So I decided to take nature into my own hands.  It’s snowing on my blog.  It’s not your screen, and you’re not so fatigued that your eyes are playing tricks on you (both of which my sister thought a couple nights ago).  It’s a nifty feature brought to me by the lovely folks at WordPress.  And it’s probably the only snow I’ll see this year, so I hope dear potential readers, you’ll be able to put up with it.

I also have a new header! I hope it’s to your liking.  My very limited image editing software notwithstanding, I’m pretty happy with this.

Now that Hanukkah is over (oily fattening food smorgasbord), and I’m expecting the imminent arrival of my parents for two weeks (eating out at fancy schmancy restaurants – hopefully – daily), I hope to go on a health kick this week.  Veg galore!  So…I’ll be updating you on barley, buckwheat, Jerusalem artichoke (etc) creations…and next week – expect some luscious restaurant reviews!

Happy eating! Happy snow! Happy winter!

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